WASHINGTON: As Congress neared the end of its 2021 legislative session without final passage of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“It is imperative that Congress pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law as quickly as possible, and in the strongest form possible,” said Annie Boyajian, vice president for policy and advocacy at Freedom House. “As the world knows, over the last four years the Chinese government has committed crimes against humanity and acts of genocide against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Evidence has shown that forced labor is a key component of the Chinese government’s extensive network of detention facilities, to which more than one million people remain confined.”
“Unless Congress acts, goods made with the forced labor of Uyghurs and others detained in the Xinjiang region will continue to enter the US market,” said Boyajian. “Both chambers of Congress need to pass matching language before the end of the year, and President Biden needs to sign it into law without delay. Failure to do so would make unwitting American consumers complicit in the crimes of the Chinese government. It would also amount to an abdication of US leadership.”
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (S.65/H.R.1155) was first introduced in March 2020 but died at the end of the 116th Congress. The bill was reintroduced in January 2021 and awaits final congressional action.
The legislation would direct US Customs and Border Protection to presume that all goods made in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are made with forced labor and therefore prohibited from importation into the United States, unless the importer can prove that forced labor was not used. It also directs the government to develop a strategy to address forced labor in the Xinjiang region and obliges the president to impose sanctions on individuals and officials who are determined to be “responsible for serious human rights abuses in connection with forced labor with respect to Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, or members of other Muslim minority groups, or other persons in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”